Kurt Simmons and the Failure of the Hope of Israel
Unjustified Changes #3
This is part #3 in response to the recent radical changes in the theology of Kurt Simmons.
In the April, 2011 Sword and Plow email journal sent out by my friend Kurt Simmons, he says he has abandoned his views of the “redemption of the purchased possession” discussed in Ephesians 1:12-13. The reason I am addressing this unfortunate alteration in theology by my friend is because his change is not only unjustified and an abandonment of the truth, but, because his change has such profound implications for the proper understanding of eschatology.
Some of the issues that are raised in Kurt’s article are covered in the written debate that he and I had in 2010 on the passing of the Law of Moses. That debate is now available in book form entitled: The End of Torah: At The Cross or AD 70? It is available from this website. I highly recommend that you get a copy of that exchange and read it carefully. It will be helpful in dispelling Kurt’s new claims, and bring deeper understanding of the importance of the issues involved. It will also reveal that Kurt changed his positions several times, during the debate, and now, he has changed even more since that debate.
In the course of this review I will give the entirety of Kurt’s article, to avoid any charge of misrepresentation. In our written debate, I would often take note of things Kurt said. He would respond claiming that he had never said anything resembling what I said. However, I would then produce the exact quotes, proving that he did in fact say what I claimed. So, so by producing his entire article below, and then my response to it, you will be able to see that I am not misrepresenting anything that has been said.
At the appropriate places below, I will interject my “Response,” with bold. At the resumption of Kurt’s comments, I will put “KS” to avoid any confusion.
The Earnest of the Spirit– A Quiet Inner Groaning?
My friend has now abandoned the truth that the “purchased possession” in the NT is the church, the body of Christ. He now claims, with no exegesis whatsoever, that the purchased possession is heaven. Furthermore, the guarantee of that purchased possession is now defined by Kurt as an experiential, subjective personal inner groaning of the human spirit. The identity and definition of the Earnest of the Spirit is a crucial eschatological doctrine, and when misunderstood, leads to all sorts of confusion, as exhibited by Simmons’ comments below. I have an 11 part series on the Eschatological Work of the Spirit, that is available from this website. For an in-depth study of this crucial issue, be sure to get a copy of that study.
KS – Second, the passage (Ephesians 1, DKP) itself indicates what the “purchased possession” is; viz., our heavenly inheritance. When Christ purchased our salvation from sin, he also purchased our adopted sonship and eternal inheritance above. As a token of our adoption, God has “sealed” us with his Spirit in our hearts:
“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again of fear; but ye have received the Spirit of Adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him that we may be also glorified together” (Rom. 8:14-17).
Response: Once again, Kurt is denying that the purchased possession is explicitly said in scripture to be the church, the body of Christ. Notice that he claims that the purchased possession is the individual’s heavenly inheritance. This individualization of the corporate promises concerning the church as the purchased possession is unjustified. It is not what Ephesians says.
Don’t we need some explicit distinction between the identification of the church as the purchased possession and the claimed identification of heaven as the purchased possession? Where is that distinction in scripture? It is not there, because it is the church that is invariably posited as the purchased possession and no amount of obfuscation or semantic gymnastics can change this fact.
KS – A “seal” is an evidentiary token or device. When we obtain copies of official documents, the clerk affixes an official seal to them for purposes of authentication. Paul says in Rom. 8:14-17, above, that the Spirit “beareth witness” with our spirit (authenticates) that we are the children of God. The groaning of the Spirit that cannot be uttered (v. 26) and our cries of “Abba, Father” are the “earnest” (guarantee, surety) of ou inheritance.
Response: Once again, I am staggered by the radical and unjustified changes in Kurt’s theology. Let me make a few observations.
1.) Kurt’s own claim that the “seal” is “evidentiary” is self defeating. This demands that the seal had be some kind of evidence that would definitively substantiate the claims (of sonship) being made. Yet, Kurt says that the earnest of the Spirit is some inner groaning on our part that says we are sons. That is not something from God! That is something purely personal, and some inner claim to being a child of God does not prove anything. See Revelation 2:9; 3:9– “Those who say they are Jews, but are not, for they are liars.” Did those “false” Jews not have a deep inner testimony (perhaps inner groaning against these upstart Christians?) that they were the true sons of Abraham? Surely!
2.) Kurt is making the earnest of the Spirit something that the Bible does not know. Let me illustrate.
There are three critical words in the NT that speak of how God sealed, confirmed and guaranteed the identity, status, and coming glorification / salvation of the first century church.
A.) Sphragis– Normally translated as “seal” whether verb or noun.
B.) Bebaioo– Normally translated as “confirm.”
C.) Arrabon– Normally translated as earnest or guarantee.
These words are used to speak of the confirmation– via the charismata– of the first century saints. See for instance 1 Corinthians 1:6-8. The Corinthians had been confirmed (bebaioo) by means of the charismata, and would continue to be confirmed (bebaioo) until the Day of the Lord (v. 8). There is no substantive difference between confirmation and the sealing and the earnest. The seal was the sign, a visible sign– compare the “seals” in Revelation 6– of who the Christians were, and that what they were speaking truly was the word of God.
To put it another way, God put His seal on the saints, confirming them as His, thus guaranteeing the completion of the work of salvation (cf. Philippians 1:6). That sealing, confirming, guaranteeing was via the visible, evidentiary signs of the Spirit. Simmons however, without offering one word of exegesis, simply affirms now that the sealing, confirming and guaranteeing is done through some inner individualized groaning of the human spirit.
The point here is critical, so let me reiterate it. The sealing, confirmation and thus the resultant guarantee via the Spirit was the visible manifestation– especially necessary in the hostile environment of the Jew – V – Christian controversy– of God’s presence with the early church. The guarantee, seal and confirmation were not some unseen, unfelt, subjective inner groaning of personal testimony claiming to be sons of God. It was God’s direct, tangible, evidentiary, manifestation and identification through the charismata of their sonship.
This is confirmed when we examine Paul’s language in Ephesians 1:12-13. He says that when they first believed they received the earnest of the Spirit. When we go back to Acts 19 and the co
nversion of the Ephesians we find that the only referent to the Spirit there, the only giving of the Spirit to the Ephesians was the charismatic gifts of the Spirit. There is not one word about them receiving some intangible, unseen groaning within themselves to attest to their sonship. They received the miraculous gifts of the Spirit to confirm that what they were accepting was of God!
It should be noted that Kurt once accepted and affirmed that the earnest of the Spirit was the miraculous gifts of the Spirit. Yet, he has now renounced that truth as well.
However, he acknowledged in our debate that the charismata continued until AD 70. So, the charismata that served as God’s evidentiary seal, to confirm the early church– thus guaranteeing their son ship– continued until AD 70 (per Kurt’s own admissions)– but we are not to see those evidentiary signs as the earnest. Instead, the true guarantee is that quiet, earnest, inner groaning.
Yet, Kurt has given us no exegesis, none, just his presuppositional, unsubstantiated claims, perhaps based on those “inner groanings.” For those who demand evidence, exegesis and logic, this is simply not enough.
It is to be noted that the outpouring of the Spirit was a promise to Old Covenant Israel, to be fulfilled in the last days. Jesus himself stated that his “presence” via the Spirit would endure only until the “end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20). That “end of the age” would be the time of the parousia of Christ, when the distinctive, temporary work of the Spirit would end with the presence of Christ.
So, what Simmons does is to create a doctrine of the Spirit divorced from the promises of Israel, cut off from her last days and makes it applicable to the church, unrelated to the fulfillment of Israel’s promises. This is not preterism, and it is not Biblical. Let me illustrate Kurt’s problem a bit more on this.
In a previous article I quoted Kurt’s claim that the Law of Moses and ethnic Israel were “left behind at the cross.” If this were true, then the outpouring of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost could not have been in fulfillment of God’s covenantal promises made to ethnic Israel! Is that what Peter meant when he said, in reference to the outpouring of the Spirit– in fulfillment of Joel 2!!!– “This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel”? Was Joel 2 a promise made to “ethnic Israel” in Torah? To deny this would be the height of folly.
Not only is Simmons wrong in regard to the Spirit, he contradicts the position that he took in our debate, which was finished only a short time ago, in 2010!
In that debate, I took note that in Romans 9 Paul discussed the salvation of the remnant. This was the righteous remnant of “ethnic Israel.” (Catch the power of this!).
I noted that Paul said that the work of the salvation of the remnant was not completed at the cross, or at Pentecost even, but, was on-going when Paul wrote circa AD 57-59. What was Kurt’s response to that? Here it is from Kurt’s second negative in the Preston- Simmons Debate, The Passing of Torah: At the Cross or AD 70?, (p. 64):
“I agree with Don that the “short work” in Rom. 9:27-29 refers to national Israel. God gave the nation a 40 year grace period in which to obey the gospel, and then destroyed the nation for rejecting the Messiah and clinging to the law.”
So, Kurt agreed that the work of the salvation of ethnic, Old Covenant Israel, as promised in Torah, was not “left behind at the cross.” And yet now, just a few short months later, he rejects that truth! But remember that Kurt did not offer one word of exegesis. All he gave us was the fact that he has changed. But, back to our discussion of the Spirit and Kurt’s changes.
The promise of the Spirit was a promise given to Old Covenant Israel, to restore her under Messiah and the New Covenant (Ezekiel 37). Per Kurt’s newly created theology however, the promise of Ezekiel 37 could not have anything to do with ethnic Israel or with God making the New Covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, because remember, per Kurt, ethnic Israel and that Old Covenant promise was “left behind at the cross!” Per Kurt, God cut Israel off before and without making that New Covenant with them. (Note that if Kurt were to respond that Acts 2 is the beginning of the fulfillment of God’s promises to Old Covenant “ethnic Israel” that this would be a refutation of his claim that God cut them off at the cross.)
For brevity sake, note that the promise of the Spirit was the promise to raise Israel from the dead, “out of her graves” (Ezekiel 37:12f).
That resurrection was to be the time of Israel’s salvation (Isaiah 25:8-9).
Now, keep in mind that Simmons claims to believe that the resurrection occurred in AD 70 at the time of the fall of Jerusalem. (Will he now abandon that truth as well?)
With these truths in mind, follow the argument closely:
The resurrection of the dead was an Old Covenant promise made to Old Covenant Israel (Isaiah 25; Hosea 13).
The resurrection from the dead was to be the time of Israel’s salvation (Isaiah 25:8-9).
Salvation for the nations would be when, and only when, Israel’s salvation was perfected and consummated, because salvation is: “To the Jew first, then to the Greek” (Romans 1:16-17– Salvation for the nations would flow from the salvation of Israel).
Old Covenant Israel– and her Old Covenant promises– were “left behind at the cross ” (Kurt Simmons).
But, if Old Covenant Israel and the Old Covenant promises to her were “left behind at the cross” then ethnic Israel was never saved and the Old Covenant promises made to ethnic Israel were “left behind at the cross.”
If Old Covenant Israel was cut off at the cross, there is no salvation for the nations today, because salvation for the nations would flow from the salvation of Israel.
Understand that for Kurt to maintain any semblance of an argument, Israel’s promises had to be fulfilled, all of them, at the cross. God could not and would not cut her off before and without fulfilling those promises. Yet, Kurt rejects this indisputable truth, claiming that God was through with Israel at the cross, without her salvation promises (i.e. the resurrection) being fulfilled, while at the same time seeking desperately to hold onto the fulfillment of the resurrection promises in AD 70.
Unfortunately for Kurt, you cannot have the fulfillment of the resurrection divorced from Israel and divorced from Torah.
The reader needs to see that Kurt’s newly invented doctrine– which is really nothing other than a return to Kurt Simmons’ church of Christ, amillennial roots– (with an attempt to incorporate some preterist tenets) is an overt denial of Paul’s statement that God’s promises to bring Israel’s eschatological and soteriological promises to fulfillment were “irrevocable.” (Romans 9:28). Simmons has them revoked and “left behind at the cross.” Simmons is clearly, irrefutably wrong on this.
Notice in addition:
The resurrection is the time of the fulfillment of the Old Covenant promises made to ethnic Israel.
The resurrection was in AD 70– Kurt Simmons
Therefore, AD 70 was the time of the fulfillment of the Old Covenant promises made to ethnic Israel.
Thus, Torah and ethnic Israel were not “left behind at the cross.”
Simmons cannot continue to affirm the fulfillment of the Old Covenant prophecies of the resurrection in AD 70 without at
same time falsifying his claim that the Old Testament and ethnic Israel were left behind at the cross. These are mutually self-contradictory doctrines that will not stand the test.
Kurt has rejected the proper, Biblical definition of the Earnest of the Spirit, the proper framework for the adoption as sons, the foundation of the eschatological promises (I.e. the OT), and rejected the indisputable fact that all Biblical eschatology is nothing different from that found in “Moses and the prophets.” It truly is sad to see Simmons’ desperation mount as he continues his abandonment of the truth on these issues.